Manual vs. automatic transmissions: Who is winning?

Discover which gear box suits your driving style

January 08, 2018
Publishing Partner

The perpetual debate between automatic and manual gear has made the transmission system much more complicated. A transmission system allows the vehicle to change gears by transferring power from the engine to the wheels. Potential car buyers today spend months deliberating on the pros and cons of each system. In a manual transmission, the driver is responsible for shifting the gears using the gas pedal and clutch while in the automatic transmission, the car automatically shifts the gear for you.

Automatic transmissions have been eclipsing its older sibling for decades now, but that does not portend a death of the manual transmission. It is very much alive and will continue to hold a special place for some drivers because of the unique driving experience it promises. Hence, before you decide where you stand on the auto versus manual debate, carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of each gear box.



  1. Greater convenience


Although shifting gears and mastering the clutch does not require a lot of technical knowledge, it does demand a lot of effort. Most drivers take months to learn the art of manipulating their legs independently in order to control a manual transmission car. The simple automatic transmission on the other hand gives you more flexibility and the drivers take significantly lesser time to operate the car because they are not distracted by simultaneous yet different gearing activities.

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  1. More freedom


The first rule in the driving manual instructs you to plant your hands firmly on both sides of the wheel at all times.  An automatic gearbox allows drivers to heed this safety rule because their hands are not occupied with the gear at all times. It is also safer because you can pay more attention to the road since you do not need to constantly monitor what gear you are in and if you need to shift it up or down.



  1. Better for hilly areas


If you are an amateur driver you will find it harder to navigate steep inclines in a manual transmission, particularly if you are starting from a standstill. Automatic gear cars on the other hand, are equipped with hill-holds that stop the vehicle from rolling backwards if halt completely on an incline.



  1. Reduces the risk of stalling


A stalling device combined with lack of coordination earns a fledgling driver a lot of expletives and wrath at a traffic signal.  Conversely, such incidents can be minimized to a great degree in an automatic car since stalling occurs infrequently only when there is some technical issue.



  1. Ideal for heavy traffic


A lot of time and energy is expended in starting, accelerating, decelerating, and stopping manual cars. This may not be a problem under normal circumstances, but the constant starting and halting becomes an odious chore in heavy traffic. Automatic cars can breeze through heavy traffic as the driver just needs to push a single pedal.




  1. Higher initial cost


Manual transmission cars generally cost around thousand dollars less than the auto model of the same car.



  1. Can be less fuel efficient


Auto gear cars have a lower gas mileage because of the torque converter that coupled the engine between mechanical gears. As opposed to this, manual cars use a clutch instead of a torque converter. The converter did not perform flawlessly when the car was moving which meant that it lost more power and burnt more fuel on the highway than it would have otherwise.



  1. Takes longer time to change gear between high and low options


Drivers often complain that an auto gear box is not as responsive as the conventional one. This is because the shifts are not as swift and sometimes you cannot afford the time it takes to shift between high and low gears. This in turn reduces the pleasure derived by the driver and overtaking capabilities of the car.





  1. Lower initial cost


As mentioned earlier, manual cars have an initial cost advantage.  However, the cost factor is not as simple as it appears to be. In high-end sport cars, manual cars can be equally or more expensive than auto models. Additionally, manual gear box may not be an option; it was not offered in 67% of cars launched in 2013.



  1. Lower running expenses


These cars have lower maintenance costs because they are not as complex as auto cars, hence there is less chance that something will go wrong. The clutch is the only part that needs repair and that too after hundreds of thousands of miles. Furthermore, you can repair your clutch in hundreds while in an automatic transmission it will take thousands just for the repairing and, besides, they do not even last the life of a car.



  1. More engine control


Since auto cars change the gear at their own discretion, they exercise too much caution, shifting too high a gear and resultantly dissipating engine power. Secondly, they respond to situations as they encounter them. However, manual transmissions enable drivers to exercise greater control over the car since they can anticipate situations.



  1. Better fuel economy


Manual car drivers can increase fuel economy by 15 %, which translates to 2 to 5 miles per gallon. Moreover, they use the gear or engine oil, which does not deteriorate as rapidly as automatic transmission fluid.



  1. Dead battery push start


A manual car can be push started even when it runs out of battery by depressing the clutch and shifting into the second gear. Since an auto gear box is not accompanied by a clutch, this function cannot be performed in an auto car.




  1. Pain from the clutch


When driving a manual transmission, you overburden your left leg and right arm while the left arm and right leg are mainly stationary. Secondly, the left leg is constantly in a tense state with the foot stretched to reach the clutch. This creates tension all the way up to the hip and can cause muscle imbalance leading to pain.



  1. Learning curve 


For all its practical uses, manual transmission requires a great degree of practice. Initially you will encounter missed shifts, jerking, stalling and lack of control on steep surfaces.



  1. Difficulty on hills


There is a huge possibility that your car will roll back and hit the car behind you if you fail to balance the pedals, while driving on a hill. Also, if you try balancing the clutch, you will soon run out of friction on your clutch disc.


If you are planning to get a used car, a manual car will save you trips to the gas station and the workshop. But if you want to buy a zero meter car, you need to figure out what kind of a driver you are. If you prefer fun over comfort then go for the manual option but if you live in a busy city and are tired of hectic office hour traffic, you should explore auto gear cars.





Muhid | 5 years ago | Reply 'you overburden your left leg and right arm while the left arm and right leg are mainly stationary. ' This would be the situation in a LHD manual. Copy/Paste much ET?
BrainBro | 5 years ago | Reply That's like comparing windows 95 within windows 10 and then looking at pros and cons. Manual is only around because the Brits are unable to give it up due to their ego issues with the Americans.
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